20 Questions with ... Leslie Jordan
Actor, writer and comedian Leslie Jordan has returned to London with his new one-man show Fruit Fly, which runs at Leicester Square Theatre from tomorrow (12 March 2013) until Saturday
Where did you grow up?
Chattanooga Tennessee, which is known as the buckle of the Bible belt
Where do you live now?
West Hollywood, Los Angeles, which is definitely not the buckle of the Bible belt!
What made you want to become an actor?
I learned to be funny because of the bullies at school who would shout "smear the queer" during dodge ball – I learned they wouldn't throw the ball at me quite so much if I made them laugh.
What else might you have done professionally?
I have absolutely no idea! For 30 years on a daily basis I've thought I must be able to do something else, but there really isn't anything.
Who were your early heroes?
Three people - all comediennes; Llily Tomlin, Carol Burnett and Phyllis Diller.
What was the first thing you saw on stage that had a big impact on you?
I was in the Chattanooga Boys Choir on tour and I saw a production of Neil Simon's Barefoot in the Park. I was only 12 and it was my first professional stage play. It made a great impression on me.
And the last?
I recently saw a performance piece in New York featuring French clowns. Nobody spoke a word. It was filthy! It was set in prison and they all tried to rape each other. Very bizarre. Kinda like Cirque du Soleil. It didn't last long - but I thought it was hilarious.
First big break?
An episode of Murphy Brown with Candice Bergen in 1989. I was a guest star and very next day my agent at the time said, "I've never heard of an overnight success but my phone is ringing off the hook". Steven Spielberg got his casting woman to get me in for a general audition and Paul Rubens (aka Pee Wee Herman) wanted to write me into his kids show. Plus Burt Reynolds thought I'd be great to co-star with his wife, Loni Anderson. It was a whirlwind.
Best piece of advice you've been given?
That's a tough one... Don't take anything personal in showbusiness.
And the worst?
I was offered a TV series about a puppet from outer space and another TV series, The People Next Door, with Jeffrey Jones, the principal from Ferris Bueller's Day Off. My manager said take the second series. It didn't last 13 episodes. The other was Alf - and if I'd chosen that one I would be a millionaire.
Favourite place in London?
Cecconi's in Mayfair - they have one in West Hollywood as well. I adore their Veal Milanese. It's really hard to get in but they know me from my last West End show, My Trip Down The Pink Carpet and they treat me like royalty.
Who are your dream three dinner guests?
Dolly Parton, who I've never met, Jesus Christ as there's a few things I need to ask him and I guess to spice things up Bette Midler, because I've never heard a good word about her from anyone who's worked with her!
What's your favourite joke?
I don't have a clean one.
What's Fruit Fly about?
Do gay men really become their mothers? It's a lot more than people think. Really it's a love letter from a gay boy to his mother from day one to the present.
So do gay men become their mothers?
Come and see the show – the answer might surprise you.
Do you ever get nervous before gigs?
I haven't for years.
How do British audiences differ from Americans?
UK audiences are much more polite and attentive, and they don't text during the show.
Many people know you for Will and Grace - do you miss your character Beverley Leslie?
Desperately – and the pay cheque!
Do you think Will and Grace will ever return?
Never – it had its time and the kids have all moved on.
Is it true you were detained at Heathrow on your flight over?
Yes – forever. Immigration were very nice, polite and cute. I asked, "Do you have to handcuff me? I might run!"
Fruit Fly is at Leicester Square Theatre from 12-16 March 2013